You guessed it, it’s time for another episode – this time we’re pondering creative space, and our conversation took a turn we didn’t quite expect at the start…
The idea of creative space has recently become quite relevant to both of us – we’ve been reviewing and creating our own, inspired partly by the writing retreat we went on in March (and eeee, next week’s episode is all about that), and partly by emergence from the last couple of years and figuring out what we want our creativity to look like.
One of the things we both noticed about the retreat is that each room or area had a different feel – which meant you could move around to fit your mood, which was actually a wonderful thing we’d not really considered before. From rustic kitchen tables to the opulence of the formal dining room, rambling gardens to squishy sofas, there was something for everyone and every mood, and it really got us thinking.
However, we definitely can’t afford a 12 bedroom mansion as a solution to writer’s block, so we figured we’d have a chat for an episode of the podcast and see what came up for us, and for you, around the concept of creative space.
Mental, physical or both?
We intended to talk about physical space – but creative space is mental as well. It’s no secret that it’s really hard to create when your brain is full and your schedule overcrowded, or when you’re under stress or experiencing sadness.
Part of what made the retreat space so inspiring was the absence of responsibility and the real sense of having escaped the world for a while – time as well as place was part of creative space.
Creative work vs creative play
There’s an important point which we’ve both recently discovered, rediscovered or emphasised, which is that even if your work is creative – perhaps especially if your work is creative – it’s really important to have a different space (mental, physical or both) to tackle your creative play.
It’s also worth thinking about your style and what you want to have around you – do you find colour and inspiring items help you, or is your best focus found when there’s a minimalistic nothingness in your space?
This started around fountain pens – but what would be in your portable creative space? What can you throw in your bag (or pack carefully, take your pick!) so that you can make a pop up creative space anywhere for the things you want to work on? The answers to this might be different depending on whether this is portable creative work or creative joy, but it’s an interesting one.
Ours had a definite leaning towards sensory things – fountain pens, coloured ink, smooth writing, good quality paper, having everything to hand, beautiful notebooks, the right music or background noise or noise cancelling headphones (or gentle birdsong).
Moving around also made a difference to how we felt each time, and how each space lent itself to our creativity – and we have both been trying this at home, too – the sofa feels different to the office which feels different to a makeshift standing desk at your kitchen counter.
You don’t need a dedicated physical space
We concluded that while it is of course lovely to have lots of different physical spaces to choose from like we did on retreat, you don’t actually need dedicated physical space for your creativity.
As Emma Lock said on last fortnight’s episode, sometimes having extra space or specific space can make certain things possible, but actually most things are possible with the right mindset.
And so we ended up talking more about how to create that mindset wherever you are or wherever you have – which is just as well, because neither of us are likely to be able to buy that beautifully decorated mansion any time soon 🤣
Sometimes what you need is not space to paint / write / draw / sculpt / whatever, but space to think. Somewhere you can sit and dream, and let your mind wander, and let that wonderful brain of yours puzzle over any problems you’re having or come up with new ideas.
Modern life doesn’t allow for a lot of this – we often feel guilty for doing “nothing” long before we’ve actually had enough thinking time to make a difference, so finding solutions to that or places to encourage thought space is an intriguing concept.
Specific places for specific creative happenings
There is probably a more scientific name for this, but what we mean is, having a space that is specific to one activity or project. It can be a corner of a bookshelf, or a particular notebook for a project – we’re not suggesting a studio space for each new thing you want to do.
But something as simple as writing your morning pages in bed and your to do list on the sofa can really make a difference to how your brain processes that information, and how easy it is to get going on that thing, and we think there’s a lot of potential in applying this to our creative pursuits and spaces, too.
Having set places where things live can also help enormously if you share your living space – knowing where to look for tools or where materials are kept when you only have a short stretch of time to do your creative thing is a big plus.
Likewise, knowing where to put stuff back makes restoring your temporary creative space to its usual function of kitchen surface or whatever much faster!
Beauty is a value
Beauty is of course very much in the eye of the beholder – different people find different things aesthetically pleasing and completely unbearable. But one of the things we touch on in this episode is that it’s absolutely ok to want to create beautiful surroundings in order to work or create better – it’s not frivolous as some would have you believe.
Our own very recent experiences of this are Sarah’s corner shelves and Carla’s new conservatory blinds – tiny, everyday and necessary things, but making them beautiful to our own tastes has transformed the way the rooms they’re in feel and are used.
Creative space and routine
Sometimes you need routine to get stuff done – and sometimes you need to break your routine so you can just Do The Things.
We don’t know how you tell the difference or anticipate this, but a good way of combining it could be to have certain days of the week or times of day for routine things, and then some time scheduled in that doesn’t have anything scheduled into it, if that makes sense – so for example, on a Thursday afternoon you can just roll with whatever you feel like.
Sometimes there is resistance to doing your creative thing, and changing your space (mental or physical) can be the key to overcoming it.
Changing up your walls or shelf arrangements can also be a quick and easy way to make somewhere feel different – our brains eventually adjust to what they see every day and stop noticing things, so moving stuff or introducing new things makes them sit up and pay attention – and who knows what that might spark!
As always, we’d love to know your thoughts – if you have mental space, physical space, rituals to kickstart your creativity, tablecloths you use to signify different uses of your kitchen table… tell us everything, we’re all ears!